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Posted on Sat. Dec. 08, 2012 - 12:01 am EDT

ALARMS AND DIVERSIONS FOR THE THINKING PERSON

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The reading list

“Merriam-Webster Inc., America's leading dictionary publisher, has announced the Top Ten Words of the Year. Based on the volume of user lookups at Merriam-Webster.com, this list sheds light on topics and ideas that sparked the nation's interest in 2012.

“Two words, socialism and capitalism, share the top spot due to discussion and debate around the presidential election. Socialism saw its largest lookup spikes during coverage of healthcare but also saw peaks in the days following both conventions and each of the presidential debates. Capitalism, although looked up somewhat less often, rode the same waves of interest.

“'We saw a huge spike for socialism on Election Day itself, but interest in both words was very high all year,' says Peter Sokolowski, Editor at Large at Merriam-Webster. 'Lookups of one word often led to lookups of the other.'

“'It's fascinating to see which language from a campaign or debate speech resonates with our users,' says John M. Morse, President and Publisher at Merriam-Webster. 'With socialism and capitalism, it's clear that many people turned to the dictionary to help make sense of the commentary that often surrounds these words.'”

– From “Words of the Year 2012” at merriam-webster.com

A quiz

What region had the most prolonged series of earthquakes in U.S. history?

Wisdom of the ages

“When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.” – John Muir

Current wisdom

“Whether educators have more time to enrich instruction or students have more time to learn how to play an instrument and write computer code, adding meaningful in-school hours is a critical investment that better prepares children to be successful in the 21st century,” – Education Secretary Arne Duncan on five states adding learning time to the calendar starting in 2013.

Quiz answer

No, not California – the Midwest, centered in New Madrid, Mo., beginning on Dec. 6, 1811, and continuing until Feb. 12, 1812.

Snob words

biblioklept (BIB-lee-uh-klept) – a person who steals books, as in: “Go ahead and be a biblioklept if you want to, but be prepared for the overdue fines to really pile up.” From the Greek biblio, “book,” and klept, “thief.”

Today in history

On this date in 1863, President Lincoln announced plans for Reconstruction in the South; well, that hit a snag or two, didn't it?

Now you know

If a person spent $1 every second, that would equal to $1 million in 12 days. At this rate, it would take 32 years to spend $1 billion. It would take 31,000 years to spend $1 trillion.


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